Immunizations for your Child Prevent Many Diseases and Some Cancers
Child getting immunized

One sacred duty of the doctor is to advise persons on how to preserve health and prevent disease

Sathya Sai Baba, September 1980

In my view, instead of treating people after the onset of illness, it is better to ensure that they do not fall ill at all…

Sathya Sai Baba, Valedictory Session of Cardiac Specialty Symposium, February 7, 1993

Vaccines and Immunizations

Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective health interventions. Millions of people are saved from illnesses and disability every year by immunization. Children in the United States no longer suffer from infectious diseases such as polio and congenital rubella syndrome. In addition, deaths from once common infections such as measles, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), meningococcus, pneumococcus, Hemophilus influenzae type b, and rotavirus no longer occur or are rare. Vaccines are also preventing infections caused by human papillomavirus and hepatitis B virus. Both of these viruses are also associated with cancers later in life. Vaccination therefore saves lives and millions of dollars related to cancer and chronic diseases.

Herd Immunity

The World Health Organization has reported a 300% increase to 112,000 cases of Measles worldwide this year. This outbreak has been primarily in communities that do not believe in or fear immunizations.

For measles, which is very contagious, 90-95% of the population must be immunized to protect the entire community. When that level is achieved, the disease is rarely found.

Immunization Myths and Fears

Myth 1. Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccine causes Autism

This myth was first suggested in 1998, however, after further study the authors of the study rejected this in 2004. U.K.’s General Medical Council also wrote to reject this myth.

Myth 2. Giving an infant multiple vaccines at the same time can overwhelm the immune system

Vaccines use only a tiny proportion of a baby’s immune system’s ability to respond; though children receive more vaccines than in the past, today’s vaccines contain fewer antigens (e.g., sugars and proteins) than previous vaccines. Smallpox vaccine alone contained 200 proteins; the 14 currently recommended routine vaccines contain fewer than 150 immunologic components.

Myth 3. It’s better to space out vaccines using an alternative schedule

Delaying vaccines increases the time children will be susceptible to diseases. Requiring many extra appointments for vaccination increases the stress for the child and may lead to a fear of visits to the clinic. There is no evidence that spreading out the schedule decreases the risk of adverse reaction.

Myth 4.  Thimerosal (Mercury) causes autism

The form of mercury found in thimerosal is ethyl mercury (EM), not methyl mercury (MM). MM is the form that has been shown to damage the nervous system. Although no evidence of harm has ever been demonstrated, thimerosal was taken out of vaccines as a precaution. Since 2001, with the exception of a few influenza vaccine products, thimerosal has not been used as a preservative in any routinely recommended childhood vaccines.

Conclusions

  • It is important to use vaccinations as a significant intervention to prevent life-threatening diseases.
  • Many myths regarding immunizations have been debunked after careful studies that have repeatedly shown the safety and effectiveness of immunizations.
  • The benefits of vaccinations have been proven to outweigh any potential risks of vaccinations.
  • It is important to follow the pediatrician recommended schedule of immunizations for infants, children and young adults (Reference given below)

More Information about Immunizations

The Oxford Vaccine Group provides a deeper understanding of the Global Value of Vaccination

More information about immunizations is available at the World Health Organization (WHO) website

The Centers for Disease Control has recommended Immunization schedules

Resources for providers talking to parents and patients

Talking about Vaccines

Provider Resources for Vaccine Conversations with Parents

Vaccine Education Center

American Academy of Pediatrics immunization information